EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization, and Reprocessing is a technique shown to produce positive results in the treatment of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). It can also help individuals suffering from disturbing memories or thoughts, as well as other psychological disturbances. EMDR has even been shown to be effective in substance abuse and addiction treatment.

When facing addiction, a treatment plan can incorporate EMDR to address underlying trauma.

EMDR Beginnings

The technique was developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., in the late 1980s. Shapiro noticed that moving her eyes in a certain way allowed her to process her disturbing thoughts more effectively. She commenced on a long and rigorous course of experimentation, research, and study to determine how and why the technique works.

Shapiro theorized that the eye movements used in EMDR mimic REM sleep, the rapid eye movement which happens during dreaming. The bilateral stimulation of the brain’s left and right hemispheres seems to facilitate the processing of unresolved or “frozen” disturbing or traumatic memories. These frozen memories can be re-experienced as flashbacks when triggered, causing the symptoms of PTSD.

EMDR Therapy for Addiction

EMDR can be an effective method for addiction treatment because it tackles the underlying issues associated with the addiction, like disturbing or traumatic memories.

With EMDR processing, the memory is resolved or “processed,” and the symptoms abate. After many studies and trials, EMDR is now recognized as a useful, evidence-based tool in treating PTSD and addiction. The technique also can help treat psychiatric disorders, mental health problems, and somatic symptoms.

The high frequency of trauma experienced by those battling addiction or substance abuse issues makes EMDR a valuable tool to help individuals start on the path of healing and recovery.

How EMDR Works

The technique is a standardized series of procedures and protocols which may incorporate bilateral visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation. The therapist introduces a back-and-forth eye movement or other bilateral stimulation. Simultaneously, the patient identifies and re-processes the disturbance, negative thoughts, and future templates associated with the disturbing experience.

As a result, the individual can resolve the disturbance and end any flashbacks brought on by triggers, and develop a view of positive, adaptive future outcomes. EMDR enables the patient to process the past, triggers in the present, and future templates that have created maladaptive responses and behaviors based on unprocessed past negative experiences.

Components of EMDR

When an individual undergoes EMDR therapy at Beachway, he or she will sit with a therapist in a one-on-one setting. The therapist moves their fingers (in a specific, timed, and calculated manner) in front of the patient’s eyes. The patient follows the therapist’s fingers with their eyes while remembering the traumatic event, thought, or sensation.

In some cases, a patient can make massive progress in a few sessions that would otherwise take weeks of talk therapy to accomplish. With that said, EMDR is not a cure-all but is a very effective tool that can enhance many different therapeutic modalities. It incorporates CBT, Visualization, Breath-work, DBT, EFT, Gestalt, Hypnosis, Internal Family Systems Theory, NLP, Solution Focused Therapy, Somatic Experiencing, and Congruent Therapies as various components.

EMDR provides patients with proven, evidence-based therapies to heal from addictions and the underlying trauma that can fuel them. This therapy offers a true release from the past, present, and future disturbances of past trauma and the related persistent and progressive cycle of addiction.

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